Yushu Sun



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Many students struggle to comprehend text material or other reading assignments. This study investigates how the activation of general knowledge can facilitate necessary inference-making while reading science articles. Three articles were written for use in this study. Each participant was asked to read the articles, each under one of the following conditions: (1) Knowledge Activation Before Reading; (2) Activation After Reading; and (3) No Activation. (Treatment condition, treatment order, and article are counterbalanced within each block of 6 participants.) Following each treatment participants rated (on a 0-10 scale) the extent to which they comprehended the article. Subsequently, they answered “True” or “False” to each of 9 statements and, following each response, used the same 0-10 scale to rate their confidence in being correct. Three categories (each with 3 statements) occurred: (1) explicit information found in the text; (2) “text-based inferences” (i.e., statements directly implied given information in the text); and (3) “evaluative inferences” (i.e., statements not directly implied with information provided but, rather, implied contingent upon the availability of general knowledge). Test scores were derived from the sum of weighted correct responses (+1 times the corresponding confidence rating) and weighted incorrect responses (-1 times the corresponding confidence rating). We predicted that activation of knowledge prior to reading would have the largest facilitative effect upon comprehension and test scores associated with evaluative inferences. We also predicted that little or no effect of knowledge activation would occur for responses to explicit statements. The effect of knowledge activation after reading is interesting from both a theoretical and practical standpoint. We believe that skilled reading requires the availability of general knowledge while reading. Otherwise, students are unable to draw necessary inferences. We discuss implications of these findings for students and teachers.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Independent Research - Undergraduate

Primary Advisor

Ronald M. Katsuyama

Primary Advisor's Department



Stander Symposium project

Facilitating the Comprehension of Science Articles by Activating General Knowledge